Two bills to legalize cannabis possession of up to 15 grams and decriminalize up to 50 grams made it past the first hurdle in the Israeli government on Sunday. Today, the pieces of legislation continued their momentum and made it through early readings in Parliament. If passed, the laws would allow anyone 21 or older to legally possess and consume cannabis for recreational purposes in Israel.
The decriminalization bill passed 61-11, and the legislation that would regulate how cannabis is bought and sold passed at 53-12. Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers walked out and absented themselves from the vote, but that was not enough to slow the pace of this legislation. If both bills become law, they will be combined to allow selling and buying of cannabis at designated retailers, however, growing it at home will remain illegal.
The bill stated that 27 percent of all adults in Israel consume cannabis.
“For the first [time] in the state of Israel’s history, my legislative move is officially beginning to regulate the cannabis market in Israel,” said Sharren Haskel, a co-sponsor of the bill, earlier this week. “I am proud to bring good news to one million cannabis users and tens of thousands of sick people.”
Both the Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, said they would “resolve the issue of decriminalization and legalization” in a statement earlier this month. They elaborated by adding there will also be medical cannabis reforms coming to make it easier for patients to access their medicine and for growers to receive licenses.
Israel approved the use of medical marijuana in 1999, and over the last two decades, the country has become a hotbed of medical and scientific research on the subject. In 2017, the Public Security Ministry partially decriminalized possession by using fines for first-time offenders instead of prosecution, and most recently in May, final approval was given for medical cannabis manufacturers to export to other legal countries.
Cannabis use in Israel goes back thousands of years, with a recent excavation of a 2,700-year-old Jewish temple revealing well-preserved cannabis substances likely used for religious rituals.